Archive for March, 2011
“The Practice of the Wild” by Gary Snyder delights me right from the preface - fairly unique, in my experience. The poet writes (in prose) of “appreciating the ferocious orderliness of the wild.” He speaks of his own path as “connected to animist and shamanist roots.” Snyder praises the arts as “the wilderness areas of the imagination, surviving like national parks.” I had not seen that arts connection, although I spend my life at D&R Greenway Land Trust weaving the arts into preservation of New Jersey lands. Snyder sums up his preface musings: “the wild… is actually, relentlessly, beautifully formal and free.”
As I step out along the Gary Snyder trail, I learn that to him, the words “wild” and “free” are inseparable. How tragic that freedoms are becoming more and more imperiled in our once abundant land, along with our once abundant land. Gary, thank you for articulating what I know, but could not put into words. Thank you for showing this Sagittarian (whose motto is “Don’t fence me in!”) why the wild is essential in my life. Because wild is free and free is wild.
I thought I was hoping to go to Bowman’s in search of spring. I now see, I am seeking the wild and the free. What are you seeking?
Coursing Waters: DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
A recurrent bout of flu deleted all my weekend excursions, including, especially, my first (!) trip this year to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, just across our Delaware River, just below New Hope, to see if anything normal, natural and native had sprouted.
WILD DELAWARE, Brenda Jones
I knew, of course, skunk cabbage would be up. But what about bloodroot, twinflower, those fragile early heralds? Who knows? When will I know?
SKUNK CABBAGE, FIRST GLIMPSE, (Last Spring - March cfe)
First Ferns, which might be up now, for all I know! (cfe last spring - March)
Confined to quarters as I am, and despite lifelong scorn for television, this weekend I came to rejoice that NJN is spending this month on WILDERNESS. I became a couch potato watching WILD.
ISLAND BEACH FISHERMAN DAY AFTER WILD NOR’EASTER (cfe)
NJ WILD readers may remember my meanderings (mental) about the meaning of WILD, especially in this century, particularly in this, our most populous state.
TRUE WILDNESS, Fox at Twilight, Brenda Jones - I think Griggstown Grasslands
I’ve spent intervening years defining and redefining WILDERNESS (Henry David would have us say, WILDNESS, which is in even shorter supply).
CARNEGIE LAKE WILD - Cormorant/Gull/Fish Battle: Brenda Jones
National photospectaculars define wilderness in word and image. With some of which I agree. Some I seriously disagree. For example, every scene so far has been in the WEST.
KEN LOCKWOOD GORGE, NJ, WILD - Weighty Trout, Tasha O’Neill
NJN itself is great about celebrating New Jersey. Night after night, I see images NJ WILD has brought to you - the Pine Barrens, Salem and Cumberland Counties, the Delaware Bayshore, wild geese on the Delaware, a practiced fly fisherman in our very own Ken Lockwood Gorge, which could be the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for unrelieved wildness and the fight in those trout! (WHILE WE’RE AT IT, LET’S SAVE NJN!)
What makes me cross, couch potatoing in quest of wilderness, is that national filmmakers don’t know WE have a corner, in New Jersey, on Wildness.
STORM SURGE, LAVALETTE, Day After Nor’easter cfe
In the Western Wilderness series, listening to boys and girls, mostly inner city, taken to WILDERNESS the first time, their first reaction is nearly universal:
“It’s so peaceful here.” Wild = Peace.
What could be more important, essential? Especially now that we are engaged in three wars nobody wants and nobody seems to be able to stop. I remember when wars had to be run past Congress, something termed “the consent of the governed”, a.k.a. “the advise and consent” of our elected representatives. I am terrified by the voicelessness of the people in our land now.
All that heals me is the WILD.
However, for boys and girls who’ve never spent a night outdoors, the WILD can be terrifying in concept. To their amazement, over and over again, peace was the gift of the WILD.
WILD PEACE — RESTING TREE — Deep in D&R Greenway’s Cedar Ridge Preserve, cfe
What do my wild havens have in common?
Someone’s PRESERVED them!
What are you doing to keep New Jersey Wild and Scenic, as my Bucks County Congressman Peter Kostmayer once insisted our river be designated for so much of its beleaguered length such blessed terms still apply?
NJ WILD readers know my contenders for havens of WILD PEACE:
The Pine Barrens
Ken Lockwood Gorge, up near Clinton
Island Beach, especially in and after storm
Sandy Hook, especially in winter
Our D&R Canal and Towpath
Anywhere in the Delaware River Basin
Anywhere in Winter:
WILD WINTER SKIES, Sandy Hook Light, cfe
WHAT ARE YOURS?
WRITE YOUR FAVORITES in the COMMENTS
TEACH ME YOUR Favorites!
the same two workers
in frail hazmat suits
a single (English) letter
right in the middle
of departing backs
over and over
that very large boat
tipped then forced
all the stoic people
one short dark-haired man
cupping his invisible mouth
with two strong hands
calling and calling
the lost name
the backs of people’s heels
scurrying up and up
the steep and unlit stairwell
by ravening waves
disbelieving reporters measuring
enormous vertical distances
containment vessels that do not
houses on top of cars
cars on top of houses
everywhere that black and hurtling
irrevocable as lava
Buffeted helicopters drop thimblefuls of water upon metaphorical/literal conflagrations…
My first NJ WILD post upon Japan’s disasters, “NOBODY KNOWS” has become infinitely more accurate, more tragic
In the hours I’ve been sleeping, dawn television reveals anew: NOBODY KNOWS
As I implied, [as with BP's oil catastrophe in American waters], there are no experts at the site, no useful answers. And all too few officials in evidence anywhere in that battered land.
Again, cats are minding cream: Japanese leaders in thrall, as were we last year, while oil poured forth like lava few would admit
Everything we are being told is not coming from Japanese governmental leaders. Our ‘information’ is being translated by them from THE POWER COMPANY WHOSE REACTORS HAVE FAILED.
It’s not time for Atomic Energy 101
It’s time to re-read “The Wasteland”
the Wasteland isn’t ‘only’ Japan
The Wasteland is the World, as Eliot knew better than anyone
It’s time to re-read “The Hollow Men”:
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
not with a bang
with a whimper
the whimper is radioactive
Japan didn’t cause it - we did — in my own childhood, through the Manhattan Project
it’s Promethean - we brought forth fire
now something insatiable gnaws at our livers and those of all living creatures, not merely humans
again, as with the BP ‘volcano’, there are no experts flooding to the site, bearing solutions, let alone truth
once a rainbow filled sky, a promise, ostensibly, from the divine, that the world would not again be destroyed by flood
that promise is kept
water would be infinitely preferable to plutonium, cesium and so forth
the ironies are beyond measure, as well:
seawater triggered this disaster
Japanese officials urged us to trust that infusing seawater into their reactors holds the answer
my original post stands
every morning this week, I’ve found myself putting drops in my eyes
I finally realized why - because I feel as though I cannot SEE!
There is a reason for this — as with BP:
people, ostensibly in charge, again, see to it that we do not see
What with snow, rain, sleet, hail, gales and floods, I am in serious Towpath deprivation. Only a few hours ago, I saw our little Griggstown Causeway and the Blackwell’s Mills Causeway highlighted in orange on the Weather Channel, as sites for the Millstone River flood stage to be reached and even passed.
Many nights this week, I drove warily home — eyeing remaining inches between expanding waters and that fragile Towpath barricade. If the waters enter the canal, they cover Canal Road, and I am left high, if not dry. For ages after floods, the path becomes too skiddy for my comfort. In ice, it’s out of the question.
How normal it used to be for me to walk the Towpath many times each week. I know cool sections for the blazing days; and where to catch the slightest breeze across still water. Over the years, the Towpath has revealed best walks to escape cold winds. She’s divulged the parts holding most light for post-work walks. Once my sister and I made Thanksgiving for two, put the turkey in, walked to the dam and back and the feast was ready.
Now, I can’t remember the last time I set foot(e) upon that cushiony “Trail Between Two Waters.” That’s the name of one of my Towpath poems. Good thing no editor’s waiting for poetic material from me this winter!
Homesick for the Towpath, that’s my reality.
Let’s peek at some April picture, see why I am pining:
WHAT I REALLY MISS - KAYAKING ON THE D&R CANAL!
Here’s an early April walk toward Lawrenceville, below Quaker Bridge Road, ultimately through the jungley bits to Brearley House. The closest I’ve been to that storied site lately is wearing my dark green cozy sweatshirt: I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE. I’m big on memories, but memory is not enough!
EVEN A LATE SPRING BRINGS TOWPATH BEAUTY
At D&R Greenway, last week, Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship, called me from ‘high in the Sourlands.’ He was out monitoring trails, every sense attuned to laggard spring. When I answered, Jim exclaimed, “Just the person I wanted to reach! Can you hear them?” Silence… “Hear whom, Jim?” “Wait, I’ll walk a little closer. But not too close. I don’t want them to stop…” And then I heard that miraculous clicking, what I’ve sometimes described as Tom Sawyer dragging a stick along the picket fence, very fast. “The wood frogs!”
WOOD FROG EGG MASS, SOURLANDS, SPRING 2011, JIM AMON
Appropriate, this privileged exchange just now. Without Jim Amon’s serving as head of the D&R Canal Commission for three pivotal decades, we wouldn’t have this treasure. Jim’s vigilance preserved its beauty, purity (our drinking water), generous sight lines. His determination and persistence resulted in that that glorious metal virtual canal bridge soaring over US 1 in Lawrenceville.
In those days, no one would have faced down developers so stringently as Jim, forbidding metastases of McMansions at the hem of the canal, our “Ribbon of Life.”
DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to preserve the D&R Canal Commission, in beleaguered New Jersey, everyone!
Nobody’s ever called up and given me wood frogs, although friend/ornithologist, Charlie Leck, did report first redwings in the Marsh the week before. I’d begged him in D&R Greenway’s lobby, “Charlie, what’ve you seen that’s spring?”
Jim Amon took a superb photograph of wood frog eggs, laid during a recent (tardy, if you ask me!) warm rain. I’ll try to download and upload for you. The first time I ever met wood frogs, who make that clickety sound for a mere two weeks usually, was on this Brearley House walk. A stranger kindly and eagerly told me what was creating our watery chorus.
The Way to Brearley House from D&R Canal and Towpath below Quaker Bridge Road
I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE
LIVING HISTORY - BREARLEY HOUSE
I love walking my Illinois sister, Marilyn, to this site. Michigan, where we grew up, was founded in 1837. Neither she nor I ever lose(s) the thrill of finding dates that begin with 16- and 17-. And we don’t have to drive to Salem and Cumberland Counties to find those dates designed into the bricks of venerable houses.
WHAT EYES HAVE SEEN WHAT SIGHTS THROUGH THESE OLD PANES?
Easy answer - nearly barefoot Colonial soldiers in winter, making their way on mud-turned-to-ice, after the two victories at Trenton, to their next victory at Princeton, January 3, 1777. Without that handful of days and that ragtag-and-bobtail army, we wouldn’t have a nation. Their determined feet trod the grass I walk, seeking Brearley images.
OUR CANAL - AS BEAUTIFUL AS FRANCE - ON THE WAY TO LAWRENCEVILLE
Without Jim Amon, and others I’ve described as “ardent preservationists”, the entire towpath could be desecrated as it is near Quaker Bridge Road.
Stay vigilant, everyone. Preserve the D&R Canal Commission. And walk this magical trail, even in laggard spring.
A scientist, Chernobyl-experienced, may not be lying: Any time you have a nuclear facility that size that is not meeting requirements for cooling, you have a real emergency on your hands.”
Ron Chesser, Center of Environmental Radiation Studies
For days now, arresting lines from a poem by James Haba ring in my head - I paraphrase:
An official is speaking on the radio
He is lying
An earthquake of nearly impossible magnitude,
followed by tsunami destruction beyond human comprehension,
fill our world,
dominating even the great floods of New Jersey rivers and streams in this spring of discontent.
My heart aches along with the people of Japan, people of the globe, shattered by these multiple disasters.
On television, officials play down the seriousness of explosions and escaped vapors. They want us to see it as mere steam. They want us to deem it harmless. They tightrope around the word ‘meltdown.’
The true tragedy is that — as in Katrina, as with BP’s oil disaster off our shores, nobody knows what to do.
We are being given the nuclear equivalent, in translated phrases, and by the Japanese Ambassador to the United states, of BP’s “500 gallons a day” admission. You remember –I asked NJ WILD readers from first hours, if you believed it. (You know the outpouring ultimately climbed into millions.)
We are assured that only a handful of people ‘reveal levels of radiation’, as 100,000s of thousands are evacuated. [And what happens when your home has been suffused with radioactivity - what hope ever of return?]
One official blithely announced that any radiation would simply float out to sea. Wonderful. First we oil our amniotic seas. Then we radioactivate them, and air currents above.
In pictures of damaged American harbors, we have been given vivid proof of the very short distance between the shores of Japan, the coasts of Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington. Not only wave energy makes that journey.
In turbulent times, especially in times where deception is the norm, I turn to the past, as NJ WILD knows.
Lately, I’ve been leaning on Eleanor Roosevelt, that consummate truth-teller. We know that even her husband did not always welcome Eleanor’s integrity.
I came across a new paperback of her legendary My Day columns. She wrote them even on her lap in uncomfortable planes flying to visit American troops in the Pacific. My Day appeared in hundreds of newspapers in the days of healthy journalism.
Eleanor ceased turning in her columns for a mere four days around President Roosevelt’s death. In Depression, War, and now on the morning after peace, Eleanor told the truth to America.
The VERY FIRST My Day WORDS I read this morning, [Sunday, the 13th of March, while a tsunami of images of submerged houses and flattened cars and overturned boats and mud-inundated fields and severed highways and empty roadways and far too few official anybodies rescuing anyone, surge through my head,] were:
The new atomic discovery has changed the whole aspect of the world in which we live. It has been primarily thought of in the light of its destructive power. Now we have to think of it in terms of how it may serve mankind in the days of peace.
This great discovery was not found by men of any one race or any one religion and its development and control should be under international auspices. All the world has a right to share in the beneficence which may grow from its proper development.
If we allow ourselves to think that any nations or any group of commercial interests should profit by something so great, we will eventually be the sufferers.
It is a challenge to us. For, unless we develop spiritual greatness commensurate with this new gift, we may bring economic war into the world and chaos instead of peace.
The greatest opportunity the world has ever had lies before us. God grant we have enough understanding to live in the future as “one world” and “one people”.
These are excerpts from an undated column, with a New York dateline, at the time when “word was flashed that peace had come to the world again.”
Eleanor reveals a great heaviness: “I had no desire to go out and celebrate. The weight of suffering which has engulfed the world during so many years could not be so quickly wiped out.”
Always in touch with the larger picture, Eleanor leapt quickly to concerns over the nuclear wand which scientific wizardry had brought into the world.
Her words of long ago prove profoundly prophetic. We are a world united. However, not by peace. Unfortunately we have become ONE in the unparalleled pursuit of technology. Events of recent days have united us in horror and grief. And impotence.
Officials, not only in battered Japan, insist on “no harm to human life” from white clouds issuing from severely compromised nuclear reactors.
Where are the experts on our own Three Mile Island, on Russia’s Chernobyl? Who is drawing parallels and lessons?
Among the few who address the perils of catastrophic climate change, are many who insist that the only solution is increased construction of nuclear power plants. Many of our existing ones are built dirctly upon faults. We are being urged to build more when we don’t know how to resolve disaster in those already in use.
What radio announcement on the New Jersey Turnpike triggered Jim Haba’s poem, we do not know. The universality of his response reverberates into this new century:
An official is speaking on the radio
He is lying…
Eleanor’s prophecy: We will eventually be the sufferers.
It is now Sunday Evening: from AOL
KORIYAMA, Japan - Japanese officials warned of a possible second explosion Sunday at a nuclear plant crippled by the earthquake and tsunami as they raced to stave off multiple reactor meltdowns, but they provided few details about whether they were making progress. More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation.
Four nuclear plants in northeastern Japan have reported damage, but the danger appeared to be greatest at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, where one explosion occurred Saturday and a second was feared. Operators have lost the ability to cool three reactors at Dai-ichi and three more at another nearby complex using usual procedures, after the quake knocked out power and the tsunami swamped backup generators.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Sunday that a hydrogen explosion could occur at Dai-ichi’s Unit 3, the latest reactor to face a possible meltdown. That would follow a hydrogen blast Saturday in the plant’s Unit 1.
“At the risk of raising further public concern, we cannot rule out the possibility of an explosion,” Edano said. “If there is an explosion, however, there would be no significant impact on human health.”
FROM MY SCIENCE DAILY E-ALERTS:
Ron Chesser, director for the Center of Environmental Radiation Studies at Texas Tech University, was the first American scientist allowed inside the exclusion zone in 1992 following the Chernobyl disaster. He can discuss issues that Fukushima workers may be facing in light of the cooling system troubles.
Chesser said that though reports have stated the reactors were shut down safely, the reactors still must be cooled constantly to avoid a meltdown of the core.
All four reactors have been shut down at Fukushima Daini.
“The fact they’re having trouble cooling the reactors is going to trigger an emergency,” Chesser said. “There are certain trigger points for declaring an emergency at nuclear reactors. Reduction in cooling capacity would be one of those. Release of radiation would be another. Reactors are not like your car that you can turn off and walk away. They’re going to continue generating a great amount of heat until the core is disassembled. Without cooling water, then you stand a real chance of a meltdown of core that could result in a large release of radiation, potentially.”
However, Chesser, who has toured a smaller Japanese nuclear power plant in Chiba, said Japanese designers put many precautionary measures and contingency plans in place to ensure reactor safety in the event of an earthquake.
“I was very much impressed with the amount of attention to safety, especially regarding potential of earthquakes,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised when I saw they had a looming crisis at the Fukushima power plant just because of all the great attention the Japanese pay to earthquake safety.”
Also, the Fukushima reactors appear to have containment vessels over them unlike Chernobyl, he said.
Though there is cause for concern, Chesser said he thought workers at the plant must have some cooling capacity available, since the evacuation radius from the plant was only 1.9 miles and affected 3,000 people. [most recent t.v. reports reveal 200,000 now - late Sunday night]
“I think that sounds like that’s a low-level alert,” he said. “It didn’t sound like there were that many people being evacuated. At Chernobyl, when it went, they eventually were evacuating people 18 miles away from the reactor. It doesn’t sound like there’s an imminent issue, but it is serious. Any time you have a nuclear facility that size that is not meeting requirements for cooling, you have a real emergency on your hands.”
According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) website, the Fukushima Daiichi plant has six functioning nuclear reactors with two more that are scheduled to come online in the next two years. Recent reports from the company have said reactor Nos. 1, 2 and 3, were shut down because of the quake, but 4, 5 and 6 were down because of regular inspections.
At Fukushima Daini, all four reactors have been shut down, according to the website.
According to the 2008 World Factbook, Japan ranks third in the world for electricity production. A recent story on the United Nations University’s website states that 30 percent of Japan’s energy is produced from nuclear power.
“My great hope is that they are going to be able to rectify this quickly enough that they can maintain cooling capacity,” Chesser said. “I think that a reactor meltdown could be a major disaster, especially in a highly populated country such as Japan. It would be a real setback when we are battling to find alternatives to fossil fuels considering the potential that nuclear energy has.”
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NJ WILD readers know how very much I celebrate any aspect of wild in our beleaguered, overpopulated state. As you have read my recent post re polar bears, don’t think bears are uncommon in wild New Jersey. Thank Heaven!
My heart rejoiceth that, in recent years, bears have been seen in the Pine Barrens, near Chatsworth. I well know the three roads where the sightings happened, experiencing delightful frissons whenever I pass those road signs, realizing I am in 21st Century ‘bear country’. Those woods belong to them, and more power TO them!
What could be more bear-able than the Pine Barrens? And yet, for all my longing, I’ve not seen in a bear in our state.
You haven’t had a poem from me in quite awhile. The world situation makes me want to wail, Not only the world, but prose is too much with us!
Remember, always, do whatever you can to save habitat wherever you are. Not only wild creatures - poor indoored humans require wildness! Here, you know, your preservation center is D&R Greenway Land Trust.
This poem was given to me in a potent year. It was inspired by an ancient book on nature in the New World. I share it with you, to remind you just what WILD really means!
If I ever publish a book of the 2001 poems, its title shall be, “Most Fierce in Strawberry Time,” from this poem.
Bears, They Be Common…
“…for bears, they be common, being a great black kind of bear
which be most fierce in strawberry time…” William Wood, 1630
so early English readers
learn of wildlife in our land:
of squirrels so troublous to corn
that husbands (Wood means farmers)
carry their cats to the cornfields
hearns are herons, eel-devouring
eagles known as gripes
wolves bear no joint from head to tail
none but Indians may catch beaver
to hunt turkey, follow tracks in snow
but skip cormorants – rank and fishy –
owls taste better than partridge
Wood limns the Indian game:
riding the bear over
watery plain, until
he can bear him no longer
then engaging in a cuffing match
Wood gives short shrift to omens
save cranes in faminous winters
in my starveling time
a Nebraska sandhill crane’s been sighted
in nearby Lawrenceville
yet I cannot sight
my own rare Love
whose first eagle we discovered
gripping a glowering pine
after tracking the great hearns
with and without eels
we were untroubled
by jointless wolf, fishy cormorants
at dusk we would ride the black bear
over meadow and plain
kicking with eager heels
as he splashed into inky bogwater
we held no cuffing match
yet he is elusive as Wood’s beaver
cannot be tracked, even in freshest snow
now I shall be most fierce
in strawberry time
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
March 10, 2001